Can you put a price on nostalgia? This summer, Houston is bedazzled by nostalgia acts hitting the touring circuit, and the price has never been higher. As interest in seeing these aging rock stars grows and grows among the current generation of backwards-looking teenagers, enabled by the Internet to discover their parents' music easier than ever, ticket prices for bands once thought to have long past relevancy have increased exponentially.
As tempting as it is to be sucked in by the wave, I've found myself struggling to rationalize spending money on these affairs. No show has given me more pause than the Smashing Pumpkins and Marilyn Manson super-show, which promises to be an evening of unbridled nostalgic joy and increasingly diminishing returns as one realizes that maybe these former superstars aren't as amazing in 2015 as they were in 1995.
It's a simple desire: to enjoy music we grew up on. Whether we grew up in the '90s and got to experience the height of Manson and Corgan's popularity firsthand, or we discovered it recently and have found ourselves astounded at how good music “used to be,” we're touched by the songs they wrote and have a burning desire to either go back or to have been there in the first place. Yet in 2015, you can't expect the same show you could expect then.
True, Manson has been firing on all cylinders lately. His latest album, The Pale Emperor, is very much the strongest work he's done in many years. While it might not match the excitement of his earlier work, it's a comfortable late-career record that definitely shines among the shit of his last decade. Corgan's prospects are much lower. The Smashing Pumpkins have been the Smashing Pumpkins in name only for 15 years now, since they originally broke up in 2000. The solo work Corgan has released under the Pumpkins name since has been wildly mixed in quality and range. While their most recent work has been stronger than when they first returned, it's still difficult to justify their continued existence.
Yet the combination of these two on tour makes some kind of weird sense, in a roundabout way. Both are fading rock stars of a bygone era who traded on the emotional angst of tortured teenagers. There's a slight similarity in sounds, though not by enough to really explain their sharing a bill together. The crossover is mainly just due to the era they both began and thrived in. In any case, the idea behind the tour was clearly to stick the two together to justify the fact that otherwise neither would command NRG Arena in 2015 on their own (the show is tonight), and to justify the fact that tickets are exorbitantly expensive.
As of this writing, the cheapest tickets available from Ticketmaster are at $66.29, the absolute nosebleeds, and that's not even taking into account the absurd surcharges and processing fees that you'll have to pay along with that base price. Try Stubhub, then? You can grab one for $38.85, which is pretty reasonable, but then it jumps immediately to $68.94 and up. Again, that's not counting surcharges.
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Craigslist offers the best options. While I write this, some floor tickets are on sale at face value. But that's a gamble. In a matter of hours, those might be gone. If missing this show will absolutely devastate you, it's probably not best to try and wait around for the best deal to pop up on there, hoping you can manage to email fast enough.
Out of all these options, weighing the pros and cons, I still find it difficult to rationalize. No doubt, complaining about ticket prices has long since past the point of tired. It's been going on since the '90s when Pearl Jam was protesting Ticketmaster and Fugazi was setting their ticket prices under $10 no matter what venues or promoters would have preferred.
But in 2015, are there truly no bands doing more exciting music than Marilyn Manson and the Smashing Pumpkins? Is there no music more worth our money? I propose that there is, and shameless exploitation of this generation's nostalgia fetish does not justify shelling out this much money to see these two past-their-prime artists. To be sure, the diehard fans will always pay it. For the rest, the value of seeing Billy Corgan and Marilyn Manson in 2015 is just a hair lower than what they're asking.
Marilyn Manson and Smashing Pumpkins bring their "End Times Tour" to NRG Arena (8400 Kirby) tonight. Doors open at 7 p.m.